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Elections Could Revive Orange County Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Effort

Date: March 17, 2014

Political struggle continues over Orange County charter despite intervention of state legislature

Over the last couple of years, paid sick leave laws were enacted in Connecticut, New York City and Washington DC. Serious efforts are also underway in Vermont and Massachusetts, with 18 other states and six major cities also debating the issue.

Orange County, Florida, which surrounds Orlando, nearly succeeded in a similar effort. After groups successfully collected sufficient signatures to put paid sick leave on the ballot, the Orange County Commissioners, with the support of the business community, enacted legislation to block the effort. A court overturned the Commissioners’ action, however, and ordered the measure placed on the ballot for the August 2014 primary elections.

At that point, the state legislature became involved, passing legislation barring local governments from enacting such a measure and calling for a legislative task force to examine the issue, rendering the Orange County ballot measure moot. Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed the legislation last summer, over the protests of labor groups and progressive activists.

In reaction, NFIB/Florida’s Bill Herrle said, “Mandatory paid leave passed at the local level is a job killer – avoiding a crazy quilt of leave mandates throughout the state was absolutely critical for small business this year. Disparate local leave laws disincentivize businesses from expanding and operating in multiple municipalities, and small-business owners cannot survive with one-size-fits-all mandates that take away their right to determine the best benefits for their employees."

Earlier this year, a legislative task force approved a draft report which supports lawmakers’ move last year to block Orange County and other local governments from pushing through rules requiring businesses to offer a minimum number of sick leave days.

What this Means for Small Business in the Orlando Area:

While the state legislature’s action made the issue dormant for the time being, it remains a priority of union groups in the region. With a hotly contested gubernatorial election just months away, a significant change in the political makeup of the government in the state could see proposals to mandate paid sick leave return. In particular, Gov. Scott faces a tough reelection bid, in which he is expected to square off against former Gov. Charlie Crist (D). Recent polls show Crist, who previously served as governor as a Republican, with a small lead over Scott.

As for the impact of such a bill, a report from the NFIB Research Foundation looked at the potential impact of a similar law on employers in the state of Massachusetts. That report found that the enactment of such rules could cost the state thousands of jobs, and significantly reduce economic activity.

Further Reading:

The Orlando Sentinel reports on proposed changes for the County Commission, and features local activists indicating that they’ll continue to push for paid sick leave. The Orlando Sentinel also reports on the task force’s recommendations. A variety of stories cover the history of the battle over paid sick leave, including the Orlando Sentinel, the Saint Peters Blog, and an older piece in the Orlando Sentinel. A Bloomberg BNA piece covers the broader debate over paid sick leave around the nation.

Do you own a business in Orlando? Become an NFIB member today and join 350,000 other entrepreneurs who are saving time and money through their membership.

Learn more about NFIB in Florida.

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